Sunday, 5 April 2015

DISCUSSION: Should book bloggers get paid?


Beauty bloggers, parenting bloggers, techie bloggers, film bloggers... the list of blogging niches is infinite. Most bloggers in these categories get paid for what they do because, for a lot of them, blogging is their job.

Book blogging is different. Most of us don't get paid, unless you count through adverts (which don't bring in much money at all) and sponsored posts which seem pretty rare - I've only chosen to do two of them in the last six years.

But we spend hours, sometimes days, writing posts to promote books for free. We're valuable. For some, book blogging could be considered a full-time job, whether they make money from it or not.

Should we be paid for this?

I don't think we 'should', necessarily. That makes it sound like we all expect payment, and I think I speak for all of us when I say we don't expect anything at all, not even free books.

Before you read the rest of this post, please note that I'm not trying to start something. I just think this makes for an interesting discussion and I wondered what everyone else thinks.

For
  • We are valuable. We spend our free time doing all sorts, and all for the love of books and blogging. We come up with ideas, we write posts, we take photographs, we make videos, we recommend books to our friends offline and on a huge variety of social networks. We respond to emails, we make graphics, we work with HTML and CSS when we need to, we type up interviews, we let authors and other industry people guest post on our blogs, we build a following... we do a lot. It's like a full-time job, except we (mostly) do it for free. Who wouldn't want to be paid for talking about books?
  • Book reviewers in traditional publications get paid, so why shouldn't we? Admittedly, they tend to have much larger audiences, and they had to actually apply for the job in the first place, but we work just as hard - if not harder. Do book reviewers for newspapers have to design the page before they put their text on it? Do they have to spend hours promoting their review so as many people as possible see it? Didn't think so.
  • Lots of booktubers get paid. Publishing houses sponsor them to include certain books in their videos but we're not paid to include certain books in our posts. 
  • Most bloggers aren't rich, and yet we're practically doing another job on the side but getting little or no money from it.
  • Some of us have bills to pay. Books don't pay bills.
  • If a fashion blogger was approached by a company, the blogger would send over the fees they charge for product placement and whatever else. Why don't we?

Against:
  • Bloggers might get paid to review a book but not disclose the fact they've been paid, which could lead to legal issues and readers feeling like they'd been lied to.
  • We might not be able to trust other reviews anymore.
  • For most of us, book blogging is a hobby. Getting paid could elevate that enjoyment, but it could also take it away and make blogging feel like a chore.
  • Publishers have budgets for marketing, and a blogger promoting a book is marketing. But, at the same time, publishers are already under a lot of strain, financially - I, personally, wouldn't feel right about adding to that. 
  • Why would anyone suddenly pay for something we're currently doing for free?
  • We get free books already, and the occasional extra like a tote or a t-shirt (but, even then, we're essentially walking adverts, not that I'm complaining) - isn't that enough?

Some context:

I've never talked to you about the financial side of this blog, but it's relevant and talking about it openly doesn't bother me. So, here's some context.

  • At the time of writing this post, I have made a grand total of £54.14 in nearly six years of book blogging. This money has been collected through affiliate links and sponsored posts - there are two of each, if you're wondering. 
  • My domain name costs £11 per year to renew. I've had this domain name for three years, which means I've spent £33 on renewing it.
  • Over the years, I've done a lot of giveaways and you'd be surprised at how much postage can cost. When a publisher isn't sending the prize and it's my responsibility, the postage money comes from my own pocket. 
  • I have business cards. They're very snazzy and good quality. When I run out, I buy more. They're probably too expensive for small pieces of card, but I like them and you like them. So it works.

If you want to get all business-like on this, you could say I've made a loss. Not that I mind, by the way - I love blogging so, so much and I never started this for the money, nor do I expect to make a profit from it ever. Even though it's been put back into the blog, the fact that I've even made £50+ at all is pretty cool, even if I don't have anything to show for it. Except a domain name. That's actually a really big thing to show for it. Otherwise, you wouldn't be reading this. Whatever. MOVING ON.

Some might think those who want to be paid are suddenly book blogging for the wrong reasons, but I think it's natural to want to be compensated for spending so much time helping out - and, essentially, working for - other people. Bloggers in other niches are paid. Some booktubers are paid. Why is there a different attitude when it comes to money and book bloggers?

This is a big topic and there's a lot more that I could say, but this is already getting pretty long. I'll leave it with this: we're creative, valuable, awesome, and if you want to make money from your blog, then try. If you don't, then don't. But you're awesome, either way, and I don't think bloggers should be treated differently for whichever path they decide to take. Unless they charge authors for 5-star reviews, regardless of their actual opinion, and don't disclose it. But that, my friends, is a different rant for a different day.

Now I would like to know your thoughts. Should we get paid? Would you like to be?


29 comments:

  1. If the bloggers can write well and are insightful then yes but if they can't write and don't offer any thing to the a debate, book or product then no. It is all about standards.

    www.blogsbygabrielle.blogspot.com

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    1. But who decides those standards? I think that's the thing with book blogging - there is no 'greater being', for lack of a better term, that can decide something for everyone to follow, if that makes sense. It's a tricky subject, isn't it?

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    2. I see your point but there is a greater being and its the 'Invisible hand' (read Adam Smith) otherwise known as The Market.

      Like you, I read many blogs and, while there are several that are top quality, (which I wouldn't have a problem paying for) there are also millions written by pimply teenagers or self absorbed girls in their 20s who write posts about which mascara they use and why or 'what they are liking this month'. As I stumble on their rants, my eyes glass over, I yawn and move on.

      It is not to say that kids can't create good blogs but it is hard to get it right, as you know!

      I guess that I am saying that people will pay for quality content and not for access to blogs that are 'same-same-but-different'.

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  2. I'm not a book blogger--I'm an editor who blogs. And I think this is a serious issue that could be changed if EVERY book blogger started to have fees--in the beauty/web design realms of blogging, there seems to be a fee for everything, and everyone's doing it. That seems to be the idea of it. Book bloggers would need to all get together and decide on their value, and charge accordingly (much like the newsies strike or any worker's unions). It's the same way for me, in editing--my rates have to match my experience while also not devaluing editors on a whole.

    Scary, scary things.

    Anyway, I've never paid attention to critics idea's of novels, I always went to book blogs. I've trusted bloggers and their opinions, and I know many others who would say similar statement. And sure, there's vloggers, but I've preferred written opinions. I think book bloggers would be a great investment to publishers, even if it's just enough to pay for the domain every year. Just my thoughts. ;)

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    1. It's almost like money and the creative industries don't fit together. So many people think creative people should work for free, so it's really difficult for everyone to come together and agree on one thing. I don't know why that is, or where book blogging fits in that. Hmm.

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  3. I already blew up your Twitter about this so I will make this a little shorter/sweeter. I think it's important, and a smart idea for book bloggers to take it into their own hands to create an economy with their blogs if they want to - without relying on, like you said, an industry that's already struggling.

    The thing is book bloggers do get paid - your books aren't free. Shipping isn't free, paper isn't free and ink isn't free. Even the e-books, editors, agents, etc get paid. That costs the publishing house. Is this right or fair, not really. But you're right - why pay when they can get it for free? (And I do understand - books don't pay the bills - I don't think anyone can argue with that.)

    And with Booktubers - yes some of them get paid by publishers but the majority of them get paid by YouTube because of ad revenue - something blogs can't do because you can't FORCE someone to see/watch/click on an ad.

    I think if you can think of what you can offer your fellow bloggers that's new and unique, they will appreciate it and be willing to pay for it - if it's affordable. I've actually been talking to other book bloggers about this exact thing recently and plan on creating a post/series about it - because other people think it's about time that book bloggers can earn money from a hobby - but one that consumes a lot of their time, and I agree. I think it's going to have to be done creatively though and rely on the people already within the community. Work with each other, depend on each other - it works for every other blogging community - it can work for book bloggers too.

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    1. You're right, books aren't free, but that's not payment. As I said to someone else on Twitter this morning, you wouldn't go into a shop to buy something only to get to the counter and say, "Sorry, I can't pay with money but you can have this book instead." Getting books isn't us getting paid - they do count as freebies, despite the fact that it costs money for them to be produced.

      I think it was you that tweeted that link about ads? That looked interesting and I'll be looking into it, although I might feel wrong about charging for ad space when so many book bloggers have 'free ad swap' pages. We'll see!

      Thanks for joining the discussion :)

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    2. I was operating off of you comparing it to fashion blogs - some of the bigger names get paid yes, but a lot of the payments that come from those are merely those people getting items for what they do - which then after reviewing those items, etc leads to larger opportunities. But not having to buy those items, means they have more money in their pockets ultimately. Everytime MAC sends out a lipstick or something they don't send money with it - people get paid by getting a $30 lipstick for free.

      And in terms of people requesting books - which I understand not all bloggers do - you are getting paid. Otherwise if you didn't get that book you've been wanting SO badly, you'd have to go out and spend yet MORE money on it in order to read it. So you are being compensated, just not with money.

      I understand where you're coming from (books don't pay the bills - I was a book blogger at one point) - but at the same time if you get 10 books for free a year, that's saving you (based on average/median HC prices) like $180 a year.

      On top of that $180 is $180 those publishers are considering marketing materials which gets taken out of what your author earns if they even earn anything over their advance - so by getting those books for free the only way you support that author is by writing that review. Which I think is why most book bloggers do what they do - to spread the love and support for the people who write the books they love.

      Not only that but comparatively there is a very SMALL margin of authors who can make a living on what they do - how wrong would it be for publishers to pay book bloggers a competitive salary/amount when authors don't even get paid that much?

      At this point in time the publishing industry is struggling badly - and as book bloggers who love those books, love those authors, and love those events and want to support them - I think it would be incredibly ill advised to put more pressure on an industry that's already on shaky ground.

      No, you're not getting paid money, but you are being compensated. You are being given other peoples time, and hard work (including those authors that you love and want to support) for free. And in turn you CHOOSE by your own free will (because no one is forcing you to), to write a review. And trust me, it took more time to write, edit, revise, etc that book than all of those reviews combined.

      Which is why I suggested taking it into your own hands within the community. Like I said on Twitter, then that gives you the opportunity to create your own prices, your own economy and determine what it's worth.

      And there are plenty of bloggers who still offer the free ad swaps through Passion Fruit, BUT the people who pay for their ads usually get something more than a banner in the sidebar. Twitter shoutouts, FB posts, guest posts, etc. Check out the marketplace (https://app.passionfruitads.com/marketplace), visit some of the blogs and see what extra they're doing for people who purchase advertising. Trust me, there are ways to do it. (Just remember with the FTC guidelines that if you do accept money for tweeting, posting, etc that you label your posts/tweets/etc accordingly.)

      And of course :) I'm glad people are starting to make this a subject to talk about - because I think it's incredibly ODD that there are blogs out there about photos of dolls that make money and book bloggers don't. You guys work incredibly hard at what you do - I think it's time you take it into your own hands :)

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  4. I don't really know where I stand on this. There are loads of pros and loads of cons. While books bloggers are very valuable, part of what makes it great is the community. While there have, apparently, been some issues around that over the past while (I only started in late December so I didn't witness any of the hassle), everyone I've met has been pretty great. I think if people started getting paid it might (note, I say might) create a lot of negative competition between blogs. Naturally, I would imagine that the more professional blogs who review piles of ARCs and post every day will get paid more, whereas smaller bloggers who are just doing it for fun, like me, will probably get ignored. I already feel a bit weird commenting on blogs with tonnes of followers, just because they seem so aggressively professional most of the time, so if they were being paid it would just widen the gap between the people who are doing it for fun and the people who need income.

    However, I'd love to be paid for blogging. I think it would definitely make me want to put out more posts of a higher quality and I'd actually have some money! It's also look good for the CV too.

    Basically, I don't really know where I stand on this. While it would be great, there could definitely be some negative side effects, as you pointed out. This is definitely a relevant issue and looking at the way that loads of people are starting book blogs (especially YA book blogs), then this could definitely come to pass pretty soon. In any case, this is a very interesting issue and thanks for bringing it up!

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    1. Same. If I asked myself the question, should book bloggers get paid, my basic answer is 'I don't know!' It's so difficult to talk about and form a full opinion on. That's why all of these comments are so interesting!

      By the way, you don't need to be getting paid for blogging to put it on your CV. My blog is on my CV, and every employer I've ever had has said that's always been the deciding factor when it's been between me and someone else (especially because I haven't done my exams yet.) Definitely worth putting it on there, whether you're making money or not!

      Thanks for commenting, and welcome to the blogosphere :)

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  5. I think this is such an interesting topic for discussion. Like you said, there are a lot of things to be said about it …pros and cons to think about. I think that the main thing that keeps me from saying "YES" is that I like, no…love the fact that it's mine and I don't owe anyone anything! I can say whatever I want. I can hate a book and say so..I can love a book and say that too. I feel like with bloggers in other industrys who just have sponsored stuff, it's hard to say they hate the lipstick or whatever, when they are being paid to write about it. I do think that book tubers who get paid..well that's a little more in our niche. It does kind of suck to be honest because book blogs do get just as much attention but I guess because it's a different medium they aren't offering the same things. I don't know. I do it because I like to read and write about what I read.
    There's a lot more I could say but it would get really long haha. I think I'm happy with where things are for now, but if book bloggers started getting paid, I wouldn't hate on it. I think it's the natural evolution. It's a lot of work, and when those of us who need to work all the time (like me) to make a living we find less and less time to blog, so, and here's another pro to that—we can go on hiatus, we can do whatever we want and not worry about deadlines or anything because we aren't "working" it's just a hobby and a great one at that! :D (but going to book events with a book blogger press pass is pretty damn awesome. and a lot of times they give free stuff because they know we will give it away on our blog. that's about the extent of how I've gotten "paid"). I don't do affiliate links because they pay close to nothing anyway. but I do try to use bloggers links to help them out.
    Great discussion!

    -Diamond @ Dee's Reads

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    1. Thank you! Same here - as nice as it'd be to get paid, I'm content with how things are. :)

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  6. Interesting post, Amber. It never ceases to amaze me how much you book bloggers do for so little reward (excepting all the free books, of course!). I don’t know how the fashion bloggers and vloggers get paid, but there ought to be something similar for the book community. Maybe there could be cash prizes for awards such as the UKYA Bloggers Awards (for all nominees, not just the winners)? But who would fund that? Perhaps authors could get together as a collective and all put in a small sum to a pot which would then add up to something decent to be spread around? Some authors would struggle to do that though, too. There are no easy answers. All I’m sure of is that the author community really, really appreciates all the work that you book bloggers do.

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    1. All nominees getting a prize sounds like a really nice idea. Even though it was such a lovely event and all of the nominees, whether they won or not, seemed really happy with how things went, I felt a bit bad that they didn't get anything.

      You're right, there are no easy answers. Interesting to see all the comments though! And thank you so much for everything you do for us bloggers. :)

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  7. I' so glad you brought this up! I've noticed that since becoming less of a beauty based blog and more book based, opportunities have become rare. I'm a very small blog anyway so I put a lot of it down to this but I've been approached in the past for sponsored posts but I don't really have that anymore. It also seems that publishing houses favor booktubers over bloggers and I kind of understand why but I guess that opens up a whole different topic and arguments.
    I love receiving books from publishers to review and a lot of them don't force you to write a review on all books they send but I feel that if they did definitely want you to include a book in a blog post, there should be at least a little compensation for your time- for me it's not just finances but feeling like your work is appreciated.
    I hope this makes sense!
    Sarah x
    http://www.saraheliza.co.uk/

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    1. Good point. Some publicists have sent me books before and said, you MUST review this on a certain day - sometimes I don't even get a say, and sometimes they haven't even asked before sending the book! In those situations, there should definitely be a little compensation, although it makes me really uncomfortable when that happens. Maybe they should just get manners. ;p

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  8. I think book bloggers CAN get paid if they want to, but I don't think they SHOULD. For example, you said this in your "for" list:

    "We come up with ideas, we write posts, we take photographs, we make videos, we recommend books to our friends offline and on a huge variety of social networks. We respond to emails, we make graphics, we work with HTML and CSS when we need to, we type up interviews, we let authors and other industry people guest post on our blogs, we build a following... we do a lot. It's like a full-time job, except we (mostly) do it for free."

    Yes, we do all that, but we do it because we WANT to. So I don't think we necessarily need to be paid or *should* be paid for doing those things. If we didn't want to do them, we wouldn't. No one out there "owes" us anything for doing those things, because we've chosen to do them.

    I kind of see it as planning a vacation. I've seen the MASSIVE amount of work my dad puts into planning some of our epic vacations. He researches locations, finds fantastic places, digs into reviews to find the perfect hotel, arranges all the transportation, researches and books dinner places for every single night, organizes day trips.. It's a crazy ton of work! Take enough vacations a year and it's basically a full time job. But just because he puts a lot of work into planning a trip doesn't mean he should get paid for it. He's planning that trip because it's something he wants to do.

    People blog for fun, and while it can be a lot of work, we still do it because we love it. I think that's what's most important. And I think that if someone starst to view it as too much work or as a full time job, then maybe it's not fun any more? And if that's the case, maybe they should stop doing it.

    So I guess my point is I don't think we are or should be entitled to payment. Just because someone puts a lot of work into something doesn't mean they suddenly deserve money for it.

    That being said, I don't have a problem with book bloggers trying to monetize. If someone wants to monetize, that's cool and that's their business. My point is just that I don't think anyone should feel ENTITLED to money because of how much effort they put into something.

    However, I also think it's important to look at the difference between various industries. When people talk about monetizing a book blog, it often gets compared to food blogs and beauty blogs and lifestyle blogs.

    I think there's a HUGE difference between the two.

    Let's look at food blogs as an example. It's VERY common for these to be monetized, and a lot of bloggers make enough money to turn it into a full time job. Why is this the case?

    * Food bloggers get a lot more page views than book bloggers. I'd say that 20,000 page views a month is high for book bloggers. But apparently A LOT of food bloggers hit that in just their first few months (from what I've seen/read).

    * The food industry is WAY WAY WAAAAY bigger than the book industry

    More page views = more money.
    Bigger industry = bigger budgets.

    The more page views you get, the more ad revenue you get.
    The bigger the industry you're in, the more companies can actually afford to pay you.

    And it's sad, but let's face it, all those other industries (food, beauty, fashion, lifestyle) make a ton more money than books do. And if they make more money, they can actually afford to pay for a lot more promotion.

    So while it's nice to compare beauty blogging to book blogging and say, "Hey! Beauty bloggers monetize, I can too!" that's not always the case. I think we have to accept the fact that beauty is a lot more popular than books, so there will be more opportunities for monetization.

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    1. I don't think we should either. It'd be nice, but... too complicated. And I'll continue to blog for as long as possible, whether I ever get paid or not. I love it too much. :P

      Ahh, it's sad that beauty is more popular than books, but you're definitely right. I mean, look at Zoella's following. Sigh. I'd rather buy a book than put stuff on my face.

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  9. Amazing discussion topic, Amber! I think a gap has been created between book bloggers and BookTubers over the years, and I think part of this is down to our respective "values" as dictated by industry and by ourselves. I've scanned through the responses above and I think they all make valuable points.

    If book bloggers were to want to start earning through their blog, I imagine the majority of us would have to do it at the same time in order for it to work. We'd also need to consider what we're charging for - is it product placement in a post, a feature article, a review? I could be paid a fee to feature a book for review, but my review will still be honest - will a publisher want to pay for a 2 star review if I didn't like the book? It gets tricky, and I think there are other ways publishers can support blogs without having to directly pay the blogger (sponsored giveaways, signed books for bloggers etc.).

    Currently, because book blogging is a hobby for me, I do have that as a get out of jail free card. If I don't do something by a certain date, I can justify it to myself that it's because this is a hobby, and it helps keep the "fun" factor in it for me. If this became a paid thing, would it begin to feel like work? Would it start to become a chore?

    One thing that does irk me though, is when BookTubers do a sponsored post and say a video is sponsored by a certain publisher, I always wonder what that means? I think the idea of private organisations funding or sponsoring online content is still a new idea for many people, and it's all quite cloak and dagger, what prices do they charge? I heard Zoella recently bought a 2 million pound house with her boyfriend. That's some amount of sponsorship/ad revenue, and I think if there's a way book bloggers can benefit financially from what they do, then they should be able to do that without feeling guilty about it. The real question is what does that business model look like, and how do we get from here to there??? R x

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    1. That's a good point. I don't think it'd be possible to be paid for reviews, unless people want to lose their integrity. Features, placement - yes. Reviews... I just don't see how that would work.

      "I think if there's a way book bloggers can benefit financially from what they do, then they should be able to do that without feeling guilty about it." Absolutely. I've had this post written since August last year but I've been putting off publishing it because money is such a 'taboo' subject in our community. I felt guilty just writing the post, even though it's not like I said, WE MUST BE PAID, EVERYONE DEMAND IT. Haha.

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  10. This is a very interesting question!

    On one hand, I always like to stress that content has value. That's why our community is so against pirating books for instance; we believe that writing has value and people deserve to be paid for doing it.

    I think the issue gets tricky when we start talking about reviews, though. I think it would be "easier" for a book blogger to be paid if they essentially had book content that wasn't about reviewing: author interviews, highlights of upcoming books, etc. Because there's a point where people start distrusting reviews that the reviewer was paid to write. Is it honest? Or is the reviewer's job now more "promotion" of the book rather than analysis of the book.

    There's also the basic question of who would pay the reviewer. A publishing house who sponsored a book blogger would really only want that blogger to feature their own books and not ones from their competitors. Hence why they have their own promotional blogs and site (Epic Reads for instance).

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    1. That's a really good point that I hadn't even thought of. We do, as a community, place massive value on writing.

      Definitely agree with the whole reviews thing. As I said in reply to someone else, that wouldn't be possible unless you were cool with losing your integrity, which I doubt many people are!

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  11. This is a great discussion and I think a few people above have touched on what I think. Looking at it from a business perspective the blogging niches you've mentioned are huge and the companies producing those products have large marketing budgets.

    Also the blogs making money from promoting them have vast traffic numbers - and traffic is what drives a lot of revenue.

    Books on the other hand sell for a small price and are sold in smaller quantities - the industry itself is smaller and that's without mentioning the bigger companies of this world forcing the prices down further.

    I don't think looking at thinking you should be paid to blog is quite the right way to look at it. Unless you're employed by a company no blogger or vlogger gets paid to blog / vlog, nor would they expect their domain to be paid for etc - they find opportunities to monetise their content - but ultimately within books those opportunities are going to be smaller.

    http://www.thatjessebloke.co.uk

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  12. Interesting post! Money is such a tabboo, it's ncie to see a post about it now and then. I actually don't know much about other blogging communities and never compared it to that. I visit a few food blogs, but mostly for finding interesting recipes to cook, so I don't really pay attention to how those blogs function and whether they get money.

    I blog because I love it and the only way I hope blogging brings me some money is if an author lands on my blog and checks out Lola's Blog Tours and books a tour. I wouldn't feel okay getting paid for blogging as I think it would get the fun out of it and the honesty. I don't want to feature a book because I get paid for it, I want to feature a book because I love it and if even one more person says they bought the book because of my post that's enough for me. Although ofourse it would be nice to get some money back for the time we put into it, but I think blogging is a hobby and hobbies costs money.

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    1. I know, and I really wish it wasn't. I felt guilty writing this post, and have been putting off publishing it since August last year. I shouldn't have to feel that way, and neither should anyone else wanting to blog about it!

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  13. I feel as though book bloggers are more trustworthy about book reviews than those types of blogs, like beauty blogs, that do get paid for their content. The book reviewers will be completely honest, and somewhat harsh, about the books they love and hate. I feel that if you added money into that mix then it may not be the truest form of reviews. I blog because I love it, and because I love reading other people's posts and getting involved. However, I think it would become more of an obligation to read and review books for payment and then I might not enjoy them as much.
    However, if I don't like a book, I would not be able to promote it to the extreme of those being paid because deep down I'd be like "don't read it" because I really do want people to read good books, and I need to be able to connect with those books

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  14. Interesting discussion! I know that I probably wouldn't trust a reviewer if I knew they were being paid, as how would I know if they really loved the book or were just providing good PR for the publisher? Plus, I personally wouldn't want the pressure. What if I hated the book? Would I still get paid if I gave it only 2 stars? Would I be pressured into only writing gushing reviews? No thanks!

    Glad you decided to write this post, as it's fascinating reading what everyone thinks!

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  15. Paid by whom. Reviewers in the NYT or wherever, online or print, are paid by the company not the author/publisher. As we're usually the editor/owner/writer even taking ads changes our impartiality.

    But, impartiality is always compromised by life experience. All reviews are subjective.

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  16. I feel like they should pay AFTER they see the review and IF they liked it. That way, it's not required. $5-10 for a 3-5 star review might seem really expensive but that's 2 coffees to some folks. To bloggers, that's a month or two of shared hosting OR almost a year's cost of a domain.

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